May 8, 2014

Offshore Virginia getting windier?

It may just be a lot of hot air, but the energy folks at Dominion Virginia Power just announced that they will receive another $47 million from the Department of Energy to add to the $4 million they received in late 2012 to put Virginia closer to offshore wind power.

I had seen the mega wind farm near Palm Springs a few months ago and questioned if residents of our state would ever see wind turbines, either offshore or on mountain tops. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but they certainly look attractive to me. Especially after the recent crude oil spill outside Roanoke.

Winter took a toll on Chesapeake crabs

I was feeling crabby as I read more headlines about this past winter reducing the blue crab population. Perhaps 25 percent of these tasty crustaceans in the Chesapeake Bay died during this exceptionally cold winter. 

More than 200 million female crabs are needed to get the bay's crab population back to 1991 levels, and the winter count estimated only 69 million. So the winter dredge of crabs will most likely again be closed since females are the ones hiding in muddy bottoms.

But what chance do blue crabs have to repopulate the bay when watermen can set up to 300,000 crab pots in Virginia alone? Guess those deep water red crabs may come to our tables sooner than expected. Watermen have a tough way to make a living. Hope their way of life can continue.

May 6, 2014

CSX concerned about Virginia rivers?

CSX train tracks in Roanoke, Virginia, were in the headlines last week after the crude oil spill into the upper James River. The media reports now tell us that the spill was a minor event and that most of this oil that was not contained by booms either evaporated or was diluted by heavy rains as it floated down the James. That doesn't reduce my concerns, however. Faulty oil tanks, tracks and brakes, not to mention human error, will contribute to future oil spills. The folks along the Hudson River are also concerned as more barges float this stuff down Pete Seeger's favorite river. Heavy crude oil will be a bigger issue to all concerned since it does not float and will sink to river bottoms. 

The CSX website includes this great PR announcement, but they may need to kick in more dollars to environmental groups if oil spills continue:

In 2012, CSX provided $1.2 million in support of Virginia charitable and community initiatives, including key partnerships with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Elizabeth River Project, the James River Association, the Newport News Green Foundation and Keep Prince William Beautiful.

May 2, 2014

Sixth extinction soon?

Perhaps in geologic years, but not in my lifetime. So why has there been so much talk about the sixth mass extinction in recent weeks?

Elizabeth Kolbert's book has been receiving a lot of publicity too. But the best info I found is this Washington Post story:  

It is a tad long but worth the read. 

Every time we sail over the deep meteor chasm just off Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, I think about that extinction. But most of us echo Alfred E. Neumann, "What? Me worry?"

Oil spill in Virginia too close to home

Cove off James River
Those two railcars full of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota did not need to end up in the James River. But the oil that escaped is on its way down the James as I post this. I actually walked down to the river twice today to see if any oily globs were in sight. It is supposedly floating.

Why did the 15 railcars on that train derail? Early reports are that the train may not have slowed down enough as it rounded that point on the train tracks. Or did the recent rains weaken the gravel and soil in that section of track? I hope that answers will be soon in coming and that railcar standards will be strengthened sooner than later.

I had just posted on this blog a few weeks ago about the railcars of oil that make their way to the storage and shipping facility in Yorktown, wondering if those tracks were close to me. I now know the answer. The James River was already on Preservation Virginia's threatened rivers list. Today it is hurting even more.

Chikungunya is not a joke

Nor is it a new foodie recipe. It is a disease spread by the same mosquito that transmits dengue fever. And it's no laughing matter, although the name does bring a laugh.

The head of the Caribbean Public Health Authority just declared this virus an epidemic throughout the Caribbean.

I heard of it when I was in St. Lucia in February. But at that point it had only been reported in St. Martin. Then cases were confirmed in Antigua, Anguilla, Aruba, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Bart's, St. Lucia, and a few more islands. More than 4000 cases already in 14 islands.

Symptoms include a fever and aches and sometimes a nasty looking rash and skin swelling and discoloration. Aches can persist for months. No deaths as from dengue fever, but still quite serious.